Sunday, 27 September 2009


St Teresa of Lisieux said that she would spend here heaven doing good on earth. If my experience of being at our Cathedral last night was anything to go by that is certainly true. I could not believe the number of people that had made the pilgrimage to her relics. But even more amazing the number of souls who came to Confession. As a priest this is truly a very rewarding ministry. One priest said to me some time ago 'I save up all my goodness, patience and kindness for the confessional. There is no better job for a priest to do than to sit and hear confessions''
May St Teresa continue to bestow many blessings on souls during the visit of her relics to these isles.


Saturday was a busy day!!!
After celebrating the Morning Mass , hearing Confessions and then giving Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament I grabbed a quick lunch beofre going off to do two funeral visits. From these I returned to the presbytery to finish off my homily and get ready for evening Mass at St Joseph's.
After even Mass I had a meeting with the lady who looks after the accounts before coming back to St Marie's to see another family about a funeral.
After that I took myself to the Cathedral to pay repsects to the Relics of St Teresa of Lisieux at the Cathedral. I spent three and half hours hearing confessions. St Teresa's phrase ''I will spend my heaven doing good on earth'' is certainly true. Many souls recieved the mercy and forgiveness of God that night. God be praised.
However all the graces I gained were lost when I left the cathedral just after midnight to return to Bury to find some ruffians (those less charitable than myself may have a different name for them) had smashed two windows in my car.
Thankfully I was able to drive back to Bury (cold!!!) and then had the job of finding someone to replace the glass. I eventually got a temporary repair done and got to bed at 4:00am

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Sancte Philippe
Ora pro nobis

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


Respice de coelo Sancte Pater ex illius montis celsitudine in hujus vallis humilitatem, ex illo quietis et tranquillitatis portu in calamitosum hoc mare, et vide illis benignissimis oculis quibus hujus saeculi discussa caligine clarius omnia intueris et perspicis, et visita custos diligentissime, vineam istam quam posuit et plantavit dextera tua tanto labore, sudore, periculis. Ad te itaque confugimus, a te opem petimus; tibi nos penitus totosque tradimus; te nobis patronum et defensorem adoptamus: suscipe causam salutis nostrae; tuere clientes tuos. Te ducem omnes appellamus; rege contra daemonis impetum pugnantem exercitum. Ad te, pientissime rector, vitae nostrae deferimus gubernacula. Rege naviculam hanc tuam, et, in alto collocatus, averte omnes cupiditatum scopulos, ut te duce et directore incolumes ad illum aeternae felicitatis portum pervenire possimus. Amen.
Look down from heaven, Holy Father, from the loftiness of that mountain to the lowliness of this valley; from that harbour of quietness and tranquillity to this calamitous sea. And now that the darkness of this world hinders no more those benignant eyes of thine from looking clearly into all things, look down and visit, O most diligent keeper, this vineyard which thy right hand planted with so much labour, anxiety and peril. To thee then we fly; from thee we seek for aid; to thee we give our whole selves unreservedly. Thee we adopt as our patron and defender; undertake the cause of our salvation, protect thy clients. To thee we appeal as our leader; rule thine army fighting against the assaults of the devil. To thee, kindest of pilots, we give up the rudder of our lives; steer this little ship of thine, and, placed as thou art on high, keep us off all the rocks of evil desires, that with thee for our pilot and guide, we may safely come to the port of eternal bliss. Amen.

Monday, 21 September 2009


I ask you to storm heaven this week for a Special Intention

Sunday, 20 September 2009


Please do keep your pledges of prayer and spiritual sacrifices coming in for our priests during this special year. As you can see from the picture our display the board is filling up which is wonderful to see.


Please remember in your prayers Baby Summer O'Neill who was baptised this Sunday at St. Marie's. Please also remember her parents Wayne and Emilia and her godparents.


As you will be aware the Holy Father has dedicated this year as a Year for Priests. A time when we are asked to pray specifically for priests. But this time something slightly difference. The Holy Father asks us to pray not for new vocations and new priests (but that would be very welcome) but to pray for those who have already answered the Lord’s call to serve him as priests.

With that in mind I thought I would share with you to-day some thoughts about the priesthood and in particular my own journey to the altar of God.

I suppose I first become conscience of the stirrings of a vocation to the priesthood was in I was in my teens aged about 14. In those days we had to choose options in High School – the subjects that we wanted to study at O level in the last two years. Not sure which subjects I needed to study or should study I went along to talk to my local vicar.

You may surprised when I say I went to talk to the local Vicar to discuss a vocation to the priesthood. It didn’t seem strange to me for at that time I was a practising Anglican and it was ministry within the Anglican Communion that I was contemplating.

The Vicar encouraged me to do well at school and said ‘The diocese would like you to be as educated as possible. If it is possible for you to study A Levels, then you should. If it is possible for you to read for a degree then you should before you apply to the diocese to accept you as a student for ministry.

I politely thanked the Vicar for his time and advice but went away with a heavy heart. I did not consider myself to be a gifted academic or bright boy so the prospect of A levels and university filled me with fear. I tried to put the thoughts of ministry out of my mind.

This I almost successfully managed to do until the last year of high school when the possibility that the Lord was calling me to serve him as a minister came to the fore again.

As I was preparing to leave high school – the school chaplain – himself an Anglican minister asked if anyone in Year 11 wanted to go to Lourdes in the summer as part of a youth group. As a boy I had heard and read about Lourdes, its miracles and the apparitions of Our Lady to St. Bernadette but I thought only strange people called Catholics went there!!! Curiosity however got the better of me and I decided to go on the pilgrimage. That was in 1986 and I was 16 years old.

Whilst in Lourdes the thoughts of a possible vocation to the priesthood became stronger than ever but I hoped that they would go away once I went back home!!! And for a while they did.

But during my third visit to Lourdes as I was sat before the grotto saying my rosary – Tom Arkless our Chief Brancardier came up to me and asked me if I had ever considered becoming a priest? I looked at him and said I had, but there was a slight problem – ‘I’m not actually a Roman Catholic’ said I and I thought being a Roman Catholic might be a prerequisite to become a Catholic Priest. Tom asked me to think about it. That question ‘Have you thought of becoming a priest?’ prompted me to have a word with local Catholic Parish Priest when I got home.

I then embarked on a series of instructions in the Catholic faith. Every Tuesday night after Novena in a cold, damp presbytery – the Parish Priest sat at one side of the table, me at the other and the penny catechism between us. ‘Who made you? God made me, Father. I said. ‘Why did God make you?’ God made me to love him and serve him in this life and to be happy with him for ever in the next’ After a course of instruction lasting a year and a half I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church in 1990.

On my next pilgrimage to Lourdes I met a Father Paul Clarke, a Franciscan Priest. During that pilgrimage I was able to talk to him about the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood. Through Fr. Paul’s encouragement I made application to the Franciscan Order as a Postulant and in 1991 moved to the Franciscan International Study Centre in Canterbury to beginning a course of training that would last for 7 years and result in me being ordained to the priest in the Franciscan Order.

My first appointment as a priest was to the Franciscan Parish of St Clare in Blackley where I served as Assistant Priest for three years. However during that time I felt the Lord hadn’t quite finished with me yet and was calling me to serve him as a secular priest in the diocese of Salford. And so on the 11th February (the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes) I went to see Bishop to discuss the possibility of being incardinated into his diocese as a secular priest.

After a series of meetings, many letters and much prayer and reflection the Bishop decided to accept me as priest of his diocese and appointed me to the Sacred Heart in Accrington – for a fortnight – Sadly the priest I followed had dropped dead at the crematorium only a few days before I took up my appointment. That fortnight turned out to be 2 years!!!

From there I moved to St Kentigern’s, Fallowfield to serve as Assistant Priest with Father Thomas Connolly. In appointing me here the Bishop said I would be there for at least three years. However 18 months later the Bishop moved me to St Ann’s Ashton as PP and Hospital Chaplain. After four happy years there the Bishop was to appoint me to St. Marie’s here in Bury and as you know to take on the parish of St Joseph upon the retirement of Father Morrow.

What happens next is in the hands of God.

I share all this with you – not in a way of making me look good so that people will marvel at my achievements– that is not what the priesthood is about. I and my brother priests share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ and it is Him we are called to make known and not ourselves.

I share with you in the hope that it might inspire someone here or someone you know in your own circle of family and friends to think about the possibility that God could be calling them to serve him in the priesthood.

When I am asked to give thanks to God and bless couples who have celebrated 25, 30, 40 or 50 years of marriage I always ask – tongue in cheek if they would do it again and pray they say yes.

If someone asked me if I would do it again I would say YES. Why? Because It’s worth it. It is worth the years of study worrying if you are going to pass the exams. Its worth being called out of bed at 4:00am to attend to the dying and ease their passage to God with the words ‘Go forth O Christian Soul…’ It’s worth it to pronounce to the sinner those words ‘I absolve you from you sins.’ It’s worth it putting up with parishioners who disagree with something you have said or are trying to do. It’s worth it to stand between God and man at the altar and plead the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the living and the dead and utter those words Hoc est enim Corpus Meum. This is My Body.

My dear people pray for your priests. Pray that we will be worthy to minister to you and before the Most High God. But please don’t leave it till I am too old and past it to carry on ministering. Pray for an increase in vocations. Encourage members of your family and friends to consider if God is calling them to be priests.

Pray for priests, but above all pray for holy priests because Poor Jesus – He deserves better than us. Amen.

Monday, 14 September 2009


This homily was delivered 'viva voce' so the notes here may not fully reflect what was said.

In to-day's Gospel we are confronted by a direct question from Our Lord 'Who do you say that I am? The disciples who were asked this question tried to pass the buck. Some say you're John the Baptist. Some say your Elijah. To make it a bit more local and topical we could say 'Them at St Marie's say your one of the prophets. Them for St Joseph's say your John the Baptist.

Our Lord doesn't allow them to get away that easily. Like a teacher trying to gain the attention of an unruly student, we can almost see him clicking his finger and pointing ''BUT YOU...Who do YOU say that I am. And that same question is directed at us - not as a parish, not as a deanery or diocese but as individuals. And we must respond in some way. As a meditation sometime you might want to put your own name befor that question of Our Lord: Francis, Peter, Mary, Helen who do you say that I am?
And our respnses will vary depending who were are, where we are and who we are with. Its eay for us to hunt in a pack and answer with Peter 'You are the Christ when we are gathered here all nicely and cosy in church at Mass. Our response might not be so forth coming when we are asked that same question in the works canteen, the staff room or the school play ground. How do we repsond at work when someone challeges our faith? Do you deny the Lord by keeping quiet for an easy life or do we speak out and risk ridicule? How do we respond when people make fun of us at school when we say we go to church? Who do you say that I am? For who we believe or say Jesus is will have or should have an impact or on how we behave and how we live our lives.
Who do you say that I am? No one said the living of the Christian life would be easier. No one said that witnessing to Christ and his teachings was going to be a bed of roses. And thank God they didn't because they would be wrong.
The following of the Lord brings us many, many joys but there are sorrows too. You don't need me to tell you that. Our Saviour tells us quite plainly in to-day's Gospel that following Him will mean renunciation and carrying a cross. Let us pray for the graces t obe able to take up our cross each day and follow Him.
Who do you say that I am? The disciples gave their answer. What will yours be?

Sunday, 6 September 2009


When I was a teenager, bored one evening I flicked through the pages of the local newspaper and came across a course for those wishing to learn how to communicate with the deaf and hearing imparied. I thought it might have been an interesting course and a useful skill to have so I signed up.

Over the next academic year as well as learning sign language I was given an insight into the world of the deaf, their culture and some of the difficulties that those with a hearing disability face. It was a very interesting course and I enjoyed it immensely.

As part of the course we had to say something about our work and I made the ‘mistake’ of telling the group that I was thinking of becoming a priest. I say mistake because the teacher, a committed Catholic and profoundly deaf herself, roped me into what is now called Hollywood House in our diocese and the Catholic Deaf Association. From that moment I have been involved in work with deaf people. God moves in a mysterious way in our lives and the ability to sign has come in useful on a number of occasions in my ministry as a priest.

In to-day’s Gospel we read the story of the healing of a deaf man by our Lord. As part of the healing process the Lord says to the deaf man ‘Ephphatha – that is ‘Be opened’ and the Lord touches his ears. Those same words and gestures are used in the ceremony of baptism. The priest makes the sign of the cross over the ears and mouth of the child saying ‘The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word and your mouth to proclaim his faith to the praise and glory of God the Father.’

But we all know there are none so deaf as those who do not want to hear. There are none so hard of heart as those who will not open themselves up to the Lord and allow his healing touch to change their lives.

We come to Mass Sunday by Sunday and we hear the scriptures proclaimed, we hear homilies preached, but do we really listen. Does what we hear proclaimed in these four walls week by week make any difference to the way we live our lives? Or do we have selective hearing?

One of the converts I was instructing sometime ago at one of our sessions suddenly exclaimed ‘Father, I’ve got it! The Catholic Faith isn’t like the pick and mix counter at Woolworth’s (in the days when we had Woolworth’s). You can’t pick and choose which bits to like and ignore the rest.’

How right he was but how many of us try to do just that? We take away with us the parts that we like and those that we don’t like or that challenge us to change we pretend we haven’t heard. Jesus being born in Bethlehem is a nice story so we listen to it. Jesus telling us we have to love our enemies and pray for those who cause us trouble – well we don’t like that so we don’t listen. Jesus blessing the children is nice so we listen, but Jesus telling us that certain types of relationships are wrong -well we don’t like that so we turn off our hearing aids so we can’t hear.
The Lord challenges and calls us this Sunday to listen attentively to him and listen to everything that he says – not just the bits that we like and make us feel good so that we can proclaim the wonders the Lord has worked for us. And people will say of us what they said of Our Lord. ‘He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and to those without speech he gives a voice. Amen

Friday, 4 September 2009


Last week I had a meeting with Mt Joseph Burke, the architect appointed by the Board of Administration of the Diocese to draw up plans for the re-ordering of the sanctuary at St. Marie's church.

An initial proposal has already been sent to the Bishop and he has visited the church to discuss that proposal further with me. We have now moved onto the next stage and detailed plans have to be drawn up for submission to the Board of Administration and later the Historical Churches Group as St Marie's is a listed building.

At this stage the plans are as follows:

1) Move the present altar back to its original position on the east wall and re-locate the tabernacle from the side altar on it.

2) Create a new, smaller altar on the same level as the present one but move it back some six foot to enable dignified celebrations 'versus populum'

3) Create a Sacred Heart Chapel where the Blessed Sacrament currently is by bringing the statue from the back of church.

These plans are in no wy finalised and will need the permission of the Bishop and the Historical Churches Group before any changes can be made.


Of your charity pray for the happy repose of the souls of Florence Lyons and Honora Monks who have recently died. May thay rest in peace.

The Requiem Mass for Florence Lyons will be on Monday 7th September at 9:30am in St Joseph's Church.

The Requiem for Nora Monks will be on Friday 11th September at 12:15pm in St Marie's Church.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


It is great to see some pledges of prayer etc appearing on the display by the confessional in this Year of the Priest. There is room for plenty more. If you would like to make your pledge via the blog then please do so. I will see that your pledges are put up in church. You do not have to put your name to them.
Many thanks to the kind lady who has pledged a Rosary and a Cake once a month!!! I will have to be careful otherwise I'll need a new cassock by the end of this special year!!!

Sermon for 22nd Sunday in Ordianry Time

In the light of the latest Swine Flu panic and guidelines having been issued by the Bishop's Conference about Holy Water in church etc We could think that Our Lord is simply trying to offer us some hygiene rules. However, I think there is more to this than meets the eye. I think we are in the realms of Christian anthropology, that is what Christians do or should believe about themselves as human beings.
Let’s start this overview with the obvious statement that there are a whole range of opinions from the utterly negative to the utterly positive. Before coming to the middle where the Universal Church finds herself, I want to look very quickly at the extremes.
Martin Luther and the Continental reformers believed that mankind is irrevocably flawed and sinful, capable of nothing good whatever on its own. “Corrupt” and “depraved” were words Luther used often. It is a very depressing point of view. We know Luther suffered badly with depression caused by piles and constant constipation!!! He could not bring himself to say that Christ changed all that, but said that the Saviour merely overlaid our underlying sinfulness with His own righteousness. He famously described salvation as snow covering a dung heap. You can see why Catholics have not gone down this road, as it is too hard and depressing point of view. It does not allow for art and music and literature as good things and makes too much of wars and crime.
On the other hand, England’s only home grown heresy goes to the opposite extreme. A priest called Pelagius said that we are all really very good chaps and chappesses. All we have to do to get to heaven is to try hard. He reduced the work of Christ on our behalf to just setting a good example for us to follow. Pelagianism is still rife today. It is overly positive about human beings, making too much of our abilities and paying too little attention to the reality of sin and human folly.
Jesus is particularly against this latter view in this gospel. Evil things, He says, come out of the human heart and defile a man. We do not acquire that heart later in life, but are born with it. Innocent thought they are in the crib, babies have the potential for evil as well as good in them. However, Christ came to address the problem of human weakness and sinful deeds. We are capable of good, but we cannot reach heaven without Him.
And that brings us round to the washing of cups and pots after all, for washing in water is precisely what we need for salvation. The human will is damaged but not irreparably. Grace is a real power to change and improve our lives. In Holy Baptism, God not only declares us just, but begins in that very instant the process of sanctification. He cleanses the heart little be little and forgives what emerges from it to defile us. Understand now, why He pronounces blessed the pure in heart. We are not to be overly confident, nor are we to be overly depressed about human beings, but above all, we must look to God for His grace to raise us to heavenly glory. Amen.


A reader recently telephoned to ask if the weekly sermon / homily could be put on the blog. I am more than willing to do this as and when I remember. So whilst things are fresh in my mind I will post the sermon I gave this Sunday.
However I cannot claim that the thoughts contained in it are original to myself. Priests will ocassionally get together or ring each other up and ask 'What are you going to preach about on Sunday?' Then after a few thoughts have emerged pen will be put to paper (or fingers to the computer keyboard) and a homily is written. Last Sunday's homily is a point in question and I am grateful to my brother priest for his care in forwarding me his homily. I hope he doesnt mind me sharing it with you.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


I am grateful to Father Tim Finnegan at for the following quotation from an American Bishop
“If St. John Vianney himself were in many of our American parishes there would be an abundance of letters from concerned parishioners about the direction in which he was taking the parish.” Bishop Robert Vasa“If St. John Vianney himself were in many of our [American] parishes there would be an abundance of letters [to the Bishop] from concerned parishioners about the direction in which he was taking the parish.” Bishop Robert Vasa